When Death Shall Be No More

Claire Wineland is an 18 year old woman who is living with a chronic illness called cystic fibrosis (CF). Claire has a mission, and an admirable one at that. She aims to raise awareness about CF and raise money to help families affected by this disease.

If you keep up with current events, charities, or have been on Facebook recently you may be familiar with her message.

(here is a link to one of her vlogs if you’re not)

She has been fighting for her life since she was 16. She’s living her life with an incurable disease, but is making the most of what she’s been given.

She’s living an amazing legacy and has accomplished more in her first 18 years of life than many of us ever will. I admire her efforts to normalize death and ultimately teach coping mechanisms, but I want to take the opportunity to present a greater message.

The Normalcy of Death and Coping with Loss

Death is not a normal thing.

Despite our best efforts to live a longer, healthier, or even more *organic* life, death still happens. And it still feels odd.

On this side of Heaven, we must experience and learn to cope with death. It’s heart breaking when you lose someone you love and causes us to feel grief. When faced with death and our own mortality we are left with the decision to either give into despair or be propelled into hope.

Death is hard because I’m not sure if it was part of Gods original blueprint for Humanity. If that’s the case, then there’s a reason it feels so incredibly unnatural.

I’m not enough of a theologian to know if that last statement is definitively true or not. But I like to dream, and in my imaginative/uber nerd mind I see His original plan for death being a little like a scene from Lord of the Rings. I like to imagine that you would reach an age where you would board a boat that “retired” you to a place like Valinor…but we’ll leave that idea to my crazy imagination 🙂

(please keep reading if I just lost you on that one…lol)

No matter what passing into Eternity would have looked like before the fall, we must face the fact that in the here and now, it’s difficult. Much like our friend Claire, there are healthy ways we can help each other understand death and cope with it, but I long for the day that death shall be no more.

Live it Well:

This begs the question: In the here and now, with death being inevitable, how will you choose to live your life? Chances are you don’t have a disease that has limited your life span. Chances are that you have a long life ahead of you that will be filled with many blessings and a life that I hope will be lived of love.

Do not be afraid of death.
Death will be conquered.
Do not be afraid of that last breath.
While you are here, live of love.
Live as if every breath might be your last.
No one is promised tomorrow.
Only today,
and not even the rest of today.
We are only promised the PRESENT.

Live selflessly.

Live well.

Live each day like your legacy depends on it.

In His grand plan of redemption, death is put to death and will be no more when he comes to make all things new.

Though death is inevitable, so is its defeat.

Our Conquering King will return.

He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Death will be no more.

There will be no more mourning.

No crying.

No pain.

And behold,

He will make all things new.

I’m thankful for the message Claire is bringing. One that teaches us to cope with the inevitable. I feel that it’s a message that speaks hope into our fallen world. I’m not sure if she has a Christian worldview or not, but her approach to what we will inevitably face one day is a message of hope.

Claire, I doubt we will ever meet, but thank you for changing the world. Thank you for being a living example of what it means to make the most of life. Thank you for living selflessly and changing the lives of countless individuals.
May God bless you richly for your work.

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For Freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
-Gal. 5:1

No amount of self hate, regret, past mistakes, condemnation, guilt, or shame can take away our freedom. There is NO ulterior motif to the freedom that Christ has given us. Standing firm in the promise of His word will extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

When I am tempted to despair over the man I was and the people I hurt, these promises ring true. God gave us a spirit of adoption. He set us free and we can stand firm in that freedom. The very offense that brought you to the cross has been redeemed and forgiven. And shame, sorrow, and past regrets are lifted.

Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband;
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
Isaiah 64:4,5

And there is NO CONDEMNATION IN HIM. He looks upon us and says
“Who stands to accuse you? Go and sin no more.”


Father,

Continue to wreck me with this truth. You are the true artist, and you have interwoven me into a story you have been writing since Creation. Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out fear. Thank you for the freedom that is found in  your forgiveness.

YOU PAID THE PRICE. NOW I AM FINALLY FREE.

Where the Light Shines Through

Vulnerability is never an easy thing.
Even the thought of it is enough to make me cringe.
But I truly believe that “From Him, to Him, and through Him are all things.” (Romans 11:36). I truly believe that I can not know the mind of God and I know that His ways are not my ways.  So when God creates sensitive places in  your life, when there are scars from past relationships, abuses, neglect, even abandonment, those scary places from the past are exactly where our loving Father is calling us to go.

God is calling us to go to where our deepest wounds exists;
And your calling exist within your deepest wounds.

Your name is graven on His hands.
The very hands that were pierced for our transgressions.
The very hands that paid the price for the wounds we feel.
He understands woundedness.

We serve God…the author and perfecter of our faith.
He is writing our stories… and your past failure may lead to someone’s present victory.

Let’s take steps together toward vulnerability.
We’ll see we’re not that much different.
Don’t be selfish with the story God has written in your life.
It may be the only light of hope someone desperately needs to see.

The Paradox of Pain

In this world, there is a great paradox that exist within the pain we experience.

The paradox  is this:
Though you hurt something good will come from it.

Would it be possible to experience the fullness of joy
without the tyranny of misery?
Would we know peace without tribulation? 

Hope without despair?
Acceptance without rejection?
Adoption without abandonment?

Love without heartbreak?
(and the list could be a mile long)

I’ve been more convinced than ever that the pain we experience exists to give us a greater appreciation for the good things that are to come or may even already be present. I believe that God uses the very pain we experience to draw us to himself. The enemy has hijacked pain to distract us from seeing the good things that Jesus has done and is actively doing in our lives.

I don’t know that I would have ever know the value of God’s unfailing love had he not broken down my perception/perversion of love that was only self-serving and not self-sacrificing. When He made me come face to face with the misery of failure, he was placing in me a scale in which I would begin to notice what love truly is. I wonder how many of you have that same exact story, and how many of you are on the brink of knowing this truth.

The Great Perspective Changer

Painful experiences have a way of placing us in an alternate reality. One in which hope seems unobtainable. It has the habit of minimizing all the good things that God is doing in our lives. There is however beauty within the sorrow.

When we change our perspective on pain and place our eyes back on the cross and boldly approach the throne of God in times of need, it opens us up to know and enjoy God in a way that prosperity may have never allowed us to do.

It opens the door to more clarity.

Since we live in a world that operates in pairs (think sweet vs. salty, light vs. dark, you get the point) the fact that God doesn’t only pour out blessings on us is a blessing in of its self. In this world, in order to fully experience the joys of life we must experience some of its pitfalls. There is no reason to fall into despair when you do. Use painful experiences as an opportunity to shift your perspective from temporal to eternal. From the here and now to Eternity.

We have to come together and fight against the voice of the enemy that says “you are worthless, you are the only one who struggles…” It’s a lie. Though the enemy wants to place you in an alternate reality where it is nearly impossibly to sees pain as a hidden blessing, we have to fight against this and worship through the sorrow. We have to encourage one another to remember the bigger picture that’s taking place.

So, despondent Christian, when you feel like the world is falling down around you when you find it easier to despair than praise, never forget these truths:

There is ALWAYS a bigger picture taking place.
Your destiny is greater than your past mistakes.
Keep pursing Jesus. He is producing in you an eternal weight of Glory. He is calling you to Himself. Worship through the pain. Cling to what is eternal.

I’m incredibly humbled and thankful that our loving Father refines us on this fallen earth. It makes the flip side of that coin, joy, so much sweeter. And what a glorious day it will be when we worship Him face to face and sorrow will be no more!


Scripture to Consider:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
-Romans 15:13 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
-James 1:2-4

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Romans 5:3-5

Future Glory

For the past year in a half God has completely redefined my world.
I’ve never lived with such an utter dependency upon His grace, His Son, and the Word for which we are given to know His will. This dependency wasn’t something that magically happened or popped up over night, It came through suffering.

There were many nights when it was hard to hold onto hope. There were many days I fell into despair and despondency. Fear, anger, and depression defined me, but God has a way of shifting our focus off of self and re-focusing us onto Jesus, where all hope is found.

So, as I write about suffering, it’s not an easy place for me. It’s not an easy place for anyone. But my hope is that you will be encouraged after reading this.

Before Jesus redeemed me, I was like a ship setting out for a journey without a sail. I would be tossed and turned by any wave that happen to come my way. Countless relationships were ruined because of this and I was too ashamed to turn to Jesus, but God in His great love and mercy took compassion on His wandering son.

For the first time in my life I was confronted with the ugliness of my sin. A growing cancer in my soul whispering the lies of the enemy. “worthless…you’ve strayed too far…Jesus doesn’t love you…anger defines you…un-redeemable…” But just as I was confronted with the insanity of my sin, I was confronted by the voice of Jesus calming those winds and waves.

This experience is so incredibly hard to capture in words. At the time I knew He was doing something special, but I didn’t know what. I feel as though, to use producer language, He was writing a new script in my life. He was painting over an old canvas and creating a new image, one that reflects Him. There was a bigger picture taking place behind the suffering I was experiencing.

The Bigger Picture

When any amount of suffering is taking place, it’s incredibly easy to neglect the good that Jesus is doing in your life. It’s incredibly easy to lose hope and see only the temporary circumstance, but there is no reason to fear or give into despondency because there is always a bigger picture taking place

Romans 8 does an incredible job of speaking life into this. There’s a section of it that reads like this:

…I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.. (Rom. 8:18-19)

Paul is letting us in on a big secret here.

Pain produces a peculiar glory,
one of which we may not see until we are with our savior in paradise.

He is introducing a concept called Future Glory. It’s arguably against the American (and millennial) culture of instant gratification.

What future glory begs us to to is to look beyond a temporary circumstance
into the eternal perspective. It invites us to look beyond our temporary suffering into a future in which the circumstance shaped us to be stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.

But that’s easier said than done.

Why is this so hard for us to do, even as followers of Jesus?

Culturally, it is very American to desire instant gratification. We love fast food. We love fast internet. Hate waiting in lines or traffic and love to express every bit of emotion on social media. You are in even more danger of falling for this if you are a Millennial. (because we barely had the chance to know anything different.)

It goes beyond our culture though. Romans was written around 57-58 a.d. and as someone who is reading as a Millennial I feel like Paul is writing this letter to me! The sufferings that the followers of Jesus were facing at that time were much more extreme than anything we face here in the U.S. (we can worship openly without worrying about death) but holistically we still struggle with this when pain hits whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental.

We have to know that God is working something good through our suffering.

It is inevitable that our peers may not understand why we are able to worship God through hard circumstances, but scripture makes it incredibly clear that we are not defined by a temporary circumstance, or even our response to the said circumstance.

When you look at life through the lens of Scripture,
it changes your perspective on suffering.
You begin to see there is hope found in suffering.

Paul continues to write in Romans 12

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is relevant to many situations we face as believers, but can be applied to how we process suffering.

Don’t give up hope.

Remember Romans 5? There is a cycle of hope behind any suffering.

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
Hope does not put us to shame

What the flesh will try to dictate is your suffering is eternal.
It is not. It is temporary.

Shame?
Temporary.
Anxiety?
Temporary.
Fear?
Temporary.

Remember, behind every ounce of suffering is a future glory that is being revealed.
Hold onto hope. Keep pressing hard into Jesus. 


Scripture to consider:

“Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


A Helpful Song

 

Is Dating Redeemable?

A few months ago I sat across from Ryan in a smoke filled room, the smell of subs and cookies wafting through the air. I nervously took a drink from my cup and he boldly (as usual) asked
“Well, you called this meeting. Who is she?”
Trying to be self-effacing and a little coy I told him
“Oh Ryan…there’s always SOMEONE… Besides, this is more about preventive maintenance than anything… Now what’s your advice?”
A sheepish grin came across his face as he gave me some solid advice on the ever elusive world of Christian dating.

I wrote Ryan earlier that week asking for advice and trusted counsel.
“When I meet a girl I want to pursue, how to I do that in a Godly manner?”
It boiled down to several items, but the most effective comment he made was “It’s not rocket science. Ask her on a date. Find out what she’s like in the context of community. Over everything else ask yourself; Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with.”

Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with? 

That thought had rarely crossed my mind. Countless other failed relationships went through my head as I fell into a state of remembrance.  How many of those relationships could have been saved or avoided had I asked myself that for even a second. (The temptation to feel regret was strong, but through all those relationships, I knew the will of God was being fulfilled in my life.) It really hit home and target a place in my life God has recently been peeling away at. The concept of longing. I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself this question, and I wonder how many of you have asked this question while seeking someone to date.

Is There Hope for the Hopeless Romantic?

I wrote previously on my tendency to be a hopeless romantic. A huge struggle for me over the past…well…since High School has been looking for emotional intimacy in relationships. Looking for someone to cure the brokenness in me. I longed for acceptance, assurance, and affirmation through dating relationships. But this outlook on dating never healed my brokenness, it only gave birth to more. Because of this I never really knew how to pursue or love a woman the way that I should and it ruined many countless relationships, but on a bigger note, I know I’m not alone in this battle.

Brokenness attracts brokenness, but juxtaposed to that is the fact that HOLINESS ATTRACTS HOLINESS. This is where I believe a lot of the stress comes from during the dating phase. We are all looking to be loved. We all have an inkling of the hopeless romantic in us, and we all want someone to do life with, after all, even God himself said “it is not good for man to be alone

But when it comes time to pursue, Men are clueless. and more recently than ever, I believe people in the Church are cluing in on this. They are beginning to see that well intended lovers of Jesus are clueless when it comes to pursuing a woman, or how to react when they themselves are being pursued by a man.

A helpful article came out by Marshall Segal on Desiring God titled When the Not Yet Married Meet. I highly recommend reading this article whether you are single or not. It’s incredibly encouraging content on Christian dating.

One of the best points Segal made went like this:

Look for clarity more than intimacy.

Just to wet your whistle a little bit, here is a snippit from his blog post:

The greatest danger of dating is giving parts of our hearts and lives to someone to whom we’re not married. It is a significant risk, and many, many men and women have deep and lasting wounds from relationships because a couple enjoyed emotional or physical closeness without a lasting, durable commitment. Cheap intimacy feels real for the moment, but you get what you pay for.

While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our effort there.

In our pursuit of clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively. Be intentional and outspoken to one another that, as Christians, intimacy before marriage is dangerous, while clarity is unbelievably precious.

It is natural to want to be loved.
It is natural to want to feel valued.
it is natural to seek affirmation.

However, if you are seeking affirmation in a relationship, you are feeding into your broken nature. If we spent more energy pursuing clarity, perhaps we would see less brokenness in Christian dating.

But what does it mean to seek clarity in a dating relationship?
Ryan summed it up very well in the statement he mentioned earlier:

“Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with?”

If we pursued that thought rather than
“does this person make me feel validated/loved?”
Christian dating would be less broken.

Pursue clarity rather than intimacy. The rest will fall into place.

Single Followers of Jesus, can we begin to make this our goal when we start to pursue romantic relationships with our fellow believers?

Can we work together to redeem dating?

I’m eager to see what God does through this new phase of life and through the advice of smarter men than myself. I look forward to one day having a God glorifying dating relationship that turns into a God glorifying marriage.

Do you have any thoughts on the topic personally? I would love to hear them in the comment section below.


Helpful Resources:

When the Not Yet Married Meet : Dating to Display Jesus
Behind the Blog: Christian Dating

BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN

The scene had been set.
The undesirable sinner walked toward the home of her prestigious accusers.
The Carpenter teaching the ways of the Father speaks to the prominent men.
Laughing, learning, teaching, hearing.
Then all voices stand silent at the unpredicted staggering sight before them,
The woman walks into the room…

The weight of shame prevented her from lifting her eyes from the ground.
She looked not to anyone…but only to the One she sought.
Walking into the room she sees the One who forgives,
Standing with the men who denounce her very life.

Shame couldn’t speak for her.
Fear melted away.
Regret faded.
She looked upon His face.

There He sits.
The Carpenter.
The Nazarene.
The Prophet.
Messiah.

Falling to his feet at the sight of his resplendent eyes
She responds with bountiful amount of tears.
Wetting the feet of the only man who has the power to condemn or forgive.
The weight of seeking salvation through worldly means had broken her.
She wets the feet of her newly found Messiah with sorrowing tears.

Weeping.
Uncontrollable lamentation.
She couldn’t speak.
But He knew her thoughts.
He knew her every sin.
Her every avenue of countless abuses of grace.

She unravels her hair,
Wiping the feet of the One who Forgives,
as he wiped away her veil of shame.

Knowing her every thought.
Looking upon her with nothing but compassion in his eyes
and forgiveness in his voice
He calls to her accusers.

“Do you not see? With much forgiveness comes much love.”

Breaking an alabaster jar
She pours the ointment on his feet
Beautifully broken, pouring everything she owned
On the feet of the One who saves.

The sweet smell of redemption filled the room.
The sweet smell of forgiveness that could only come from the Nazarene.
Her indictors could not escape the nectarous scent
filling the room and the nostrils of the pious.

“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Shame melts at the sight of our savior.
Like wax before a hot sun.
Shame is interrupted.
A slave no more to the chains of the past.
Redefined by our Savior and given redemption.
Go in peace the mighty savior said.
Even before her enemies a banqueting table was set.
Beautifully broken she stood and feared not
For the Lord was with her.

She’s set free.